Reading Between the (Foul) Lines

Any doubts remaining about the Cubs being a hitless and witless mess? Wednesday’s surrender to the White Sox should be the clincher.

Here’s the take from someone who covered one internally-ruptured team after another in 20 years of college and professional sports:

— The departures of Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa flattened the clubhouse energy more than anyone has appreciated so far, or at least out in the open. Nobody has reined in Carlos Zambrano, and that act has to be wearing thin. Zambrano is no ace, not by a long shot. This team looks dazed and hopeless and purposeless, and it starts at the top. Worse, they don’t seem to care.

— Moves by the front office don’t have to be overwhelmingly popular among players, but players do have to see the moves as beneficial. The players don’t see that. They’ll stand behind Milton Bradley any time they’re asked, but they don’t see it as a good move. They look at the mess in the infield, even considering the loss of Aramis Ramirez, and they wonder about the pickup of .200-hitting Aaron Miles when Orlando Hudson (.310, 35 RBI, 44 runs with the Dodgers) was hanging out there. Ditto with Bradley when Raul Ibanez — a citizen of the game who is hitting .312 with 22 HR and 59 RBI for the Phillies — was up for easy grabs.

— The firing of Gerald Perry points straight to one player: Kosuke Fukudome. He doesn’t take extra hitting because the batting cage is too crowded. He obviously wouldn’t work with Perry, probably feeling it was beneath him. He loses interest in May and figures he can turn it on later, but ends up just losing it all the way around.

— Alfonso Soriano (“close eyes, wave bat, miss everything”) needs a week on the bench to rest, or two weeks in the minors to get his stroke back. Speaking of bench, anyone seeing Micah Hoffpauir or Jake Fox lately is probably using binoculars. If they don’t play soon, they’ll be too rusty to be of any use.

— New hitting coach Von Joshua says he’ll get right in the face of young guys he knows from Iowa, but he’ll take a softer approach with older guys he doesn’t know well. Wrong. Get in everybody’s face, especially the older guys.

— The biggest hope for the back of the bullpen (another area where the players see a self-made disaster) is to move Ryan Dempster back there and use Kevin Gregg for mopup or long relief. Anybody remember Mel Rojas?

— The fans yelling “Wake up, Lou!” may have the answer to the whole problem. Piniella, judging from his body shape, is most interested in his next steak and margarita. Those same fans might do well to start turning around and yellling upstairs to Jim Hendry.

— When the White Sox put on a clinic in moving runners over and squeezing a runner home, it’s diminished with faint praise as “small ball.” Actually, it’s baseball — the game we all learned growing up, before guys were striking out 200 times a year and everybody quit paying attention to fundamentals critical in winning games over a long season.

The Sox at least look and play as if they’re interested in being out there. The Cubs are going nowhere without a major shakeup, the bigger the better. Starting yesterday.  Battery dead, jump needed. Brian Roberts, come on down.

  

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